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Will Nothing Phone (1)’s design play translate into higher sales?

Nothing’s first-ever smartphone launch is just around the corner, with their keynote scheduled for July 12, where they’ll finally be launching the Phone (1). The phone is built with a heavy focus on design to make it stand out among the crowd of slab phones in the mid-range smartphone market. 

Update [12/07/22]: Nothing Phone (1) unveiled: Price, Specs and Release Date

However, before anything else, Phone (1) will be a phone, so specs are essential. No matter how good or innovative your design is unless you’ve got suitable hardware backing your device up, you aren’t going to make good sales, and Nothing did pack good internals in this phone. 

For starters, it features the Snapdragon 778G+, a modified version of the Snapdragon 778 SoC which adds wireless and reverse wireless charging. There are two memory and three storage (all UFS 3.1) options, coming in the following combinations

  • 8GB + 126GB
  • 8GB + 256GB
  • 12GB + 256GB

As for the display, we have a 6.55-inch OLED panel at 1080 x 2400 resolution running at 120Hz. High refresh rate displays are quickly trickling down to mid and budget-tier smartphones, so there’s no surprise the Phone (1) gets one too. 

The Nothing Phone (1). | Source: Nothing

There are two cameras on the back, a 50MP primary shooter paired with a 16MP ultrawide camera, and the front gets a 16MP punch-hole camera. The phone is powered by a 4500 mAh battery, which supports 45W fast wired and 5W wireless charging. While the wireless charging wattage isn’t exactly impressive, Nothing does claim that the phone can do zero to 50% in about 30 minutes. 

As for everything else, you get WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, stereo speakers and no headphone jack, although it was rumoured previously that the phone does come with one. 

However, technical specs aren’t something Nothing is marketing this phone for, their primary focus being on design and standing outside the crowd. 

In the News: Nothing Ear (1) get a refresh; likely to be launched with Phone (1)

3 things Nothing is doing differently

Much like its Ear (1) wireless earbuds, Nothing is taking a unique approach to its first smartphone. Here are three major things that Nothing is taking on uniquely. 

Embracing the tech inside

Just about every smartphone company out there, especially in the mid-range market, is busy hiding the inside of their phones by slapping glass or other premium materials on their phone’s backs (considering the front is pretty much mostly the screen).

On the other hand, Nothing is continuing a unique trend it kicked off with its first product, the Ear (1) wireless earbuds. The company has opted for an all-transparent back plate design that gives a good look at all the tech crammed into the 7.6mm thick phone. 

The phone’s see-through back embraces the technology inside instead of hiding it away. | Source: Nothing

It’s not like you can see the motherboard laid out, but instead, Nothing has opted for a rather clean-looking design with textured plates covering different parts of the phone and showing off some of the more significant-tech bits that the company is leaning into — the wireless charging coil. 

Take one look at the phone, and you’ll be able to spot the rather hard-to-miss wireless charging coil tucked in the centre of the phone with a light bar covering the outside. Other bits include the camera module, the flash, a recording light, a series of other light bars called Glyphs and even the internal screws holding the phone together.

This gives the phone a unique look you won’t find anywhere else, especially in the aggressive mid-range market that Nothing is targetting. 

Notification lights anyone?

Notification lights on smartphones almost seem to be non-existent these days. Nothing is changing that by introducing Glyphs. This pattern of white light bars covers different parts of the phone like the wireless charging coil, camera module, and charging circuitry, among other things. 

This Glyph interface lights up differently in response to whatever’s going on with your phone. The lights are synced to flash in unique patterns according to custom sounds.

The Glyph Interface is one of the phone’s most hyped features. | Source: Nothing

You can set patterns unique to each notification, meaning you can tell who’s calling or texting or what app is sending you notifications by looking at the light pattern. It even doubles up as a charging indicator telling you exactly how much battery you have. 

The entire interface is highly customisable, and Nothing promises more customisations in the time to come.

The lights aren’t RGB, though, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, considering the entire theme of the phone is a consistent standout design. There’s a small red recording LED at the back too. 

It’s an interesting take on a feature that was eventually fazed out of smartphones. 

The software experience

No modern-day smartphone is complete without a good software experience. Android has come a long way, and Android 12’s stock customisation features the general UI/UX experience is quite good.

However, Nothing’s attacking this space with its unique take as well. The company’s in-house Android skin, NothingOS, is a head-turner and something you can experience by downloading the launcher on your current Android phone from the Google Play Store. 

NothingOS has a bit of an extreme design. | Source: Nothing

The design of the launcher itself, however, is extreme. The use of the dot-matrix font and bright white background elements will get some attention and generate some extreme opinions. You’re either into it, or you’re not. Either way, it’s a very different experience from what anyone else is offering out there. 

Is a focus on design good enough to make an impact?

Carl Pei has been playing the marketing game for some time now, previously with OnePlus and now with Nothing. Orchestrated leaks, exclusive bids, an invite-only preorder system and the general marketing around the phone have hyped it up to the point where over 100,000 people had preordered the phone two days after the company started taking preorders. 

Keep in mind that this is happening during a time when IDC has predicted global smartphone shipments to go down by 3,5% to 1.31 billion units this year in the face of both supply shortages and dwindling demand. 

As for regional markets, we know that Phone (1) won’t be coming to North America, which leaves Nothing with Europe and Asia as the biggest markets for their first smartphone. Even in those regions, shipments in Central and Eastern Europe are expected to go down by 22%, and China is taking the brunt at an 11.5% decline (roughly 38 million units). Western Europe is expected to fall by 1%, and the only region showing some growth is Asia/Pacific coming in at 3%. 

Out of the nearly 700 million 5G devices expected to ship this year, Nothing’s current preorder number at 100,00+ is a mere drop in the bucket, coming in at a mere 0.014%.

However, considering the marketing for Phone (1) has pretty much been the same as for Ear (1), we can also expect some correlation in sales. Nothing has so far sold more than 400,000 units of the Ear (1), having launched the product eight months ago in December 2021. 

Overall, Nothing has a solid performing phone that looks unlike anything on the market. Mid-range phones with good performance have been known to be sales hits in the past, whether it’s the Pixel A series, FE series from Samsung or the Nord series from OnePlus.

Either way, with competing performance and a standout design, the niche fanbase the company has built up, the mid-range section it is targeting, and the aggressive price (expected to be around €470), it does seem likely that Nothing might get away with respectable sales figures. 

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